Starring: Pranav Mohanlal, Kalyani Priyadarshan, Darshana Rajendran
Written & Directed by Vineeth Sreenivasan
Look at the strange ways that irony works. Although there are at least 45 prominent and peripheral characters in writer-director Vineeth Sreenivasan’s 6th directorial venture, ‘Hridayam’ is really about just three people and a messianic figure who changes their lives.
Selva played by a relatively unknown actor Kalesh Ramanand, is the centrifugal force that manoeuvres the plot and its protagonist to an equipoised closure. Selva is a young enthusiastic innocent reformist. He educates and feeds migrant students, coaches into the success zone in their classroom, and plays the role of a guardian angel. And yes, he is in love with a girl who irons clothes on the street. A pressing engagement, so to speak.
The light is partially extinguished from this brightly-lit sunny film after Selvi is gone. No wonder Arun (Pranav Mohanlal, son of the legendary Mohanlal) names his son Selvi at the end. This film is not about Selvi. It’s about Arun, a migrant from Kerala studying in an engineering college in Chennai, facing all the curves and dips, highs that lows, of a migrant student, giving nothing away of his inner self-doubts and questionings (this dead-pan-ness suits Pranav Mohanlal).
At one point in this rugged handsome love triangle (actually, it is as irresponsible to call it a love triangle as to call Devdas a love triangle) Arun changes colours, becomes the college ruffian, a portable version of Arjun Reddy, so to ‘spit’. Happily, Arun soon tires of this aggressive phase and the screenplay brings Arun back on the rails without tomtomming its virtues from the high moral ground.
No one is a hero here. The film judges no one. Darshana’s jealous rage at her lifelong love Arun’s wedding venue (where a piping-hot clothes iron pops up as a potentially ruinous weapon) is one of the most vulnerable moments of lost love I’ve seen in Indian cinema.
Indeed ‘Hridayam’ follows the rhythm and idiom of the heart closely. But there is a pronounced intellectual faculty underlining the growth of Arun from bucolic to brash to honest and finally, perhaps a little wise too.
Outwardly this may seem to be yet another coming-of-age rom-com. But there is a lot more at work here than meets the eye. What lies underneath is what propels the film to the level of greatness that many may think it hasn’t earned. But that’s only an illusion. Sreenivasan uses personal intimate memories to underline Arun’s maturation. The mix of memories and moments from the here-and-now mesh in a pastiche of pain and release.
I especially liked the ‘Selva’ episode; no offence to the actor who plays the messianic character. But it needed someone with an iconic image. Pranav Mohanlal in the lead gives a leashed performance. His limited range is never allowed to surface to challenge his dominance in the script.
The two actresses who form his love interest Darshana Rajendran and Kalyani Priyadarshan are far more in control of their craft bringing to their lovelorn characters a refreshing individuality that scoffs at their stereotypical placement in the plot.
Come to think of it, that is true of the film as a whole. It seems like yet another film about growing up. But it is not only the curly-haired hero who’s grown up at the end. From Farhan Akhtar’s ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ to ‘Hridaya’, the coming-of-age genre in Indian cinema has also matured.
‘Hridayam’ is streaming on Disney+Hotstar